Alexis Lafreniere own goal lowlight of Rangers' shutout loss to Panthers in Game 1

The New York Rangers won their first seven games of the 2024 NHL playoffs on their way to the Eastern Conference final.

But now they trail a series for the first time this postseason after the Florida Panthers played a perfect defensive game to win 3-0 in Game 1 at Madison Square Garden.

Adding to the Rangers' frustration: They scored an own goal against New York goalie Igor Shesterkin in the third period.

Shesterkin tried clearing the puck out of harm's way, but Florida's Carter Verhaeghe picked it up along the boards. He threw a pass in front of the net, but a back-checking Alexis Lafreniere accidentally deflected it past his netminder. Verhaeghe got credit for his seventh goal of the playoffs.

"It's a tough bounce," Rangers coach Peter Laviolette told reporters. "He's trying to do the right thing. It's a tough bounce."

The hard forechecking Panthers held the No. 1 overall Rangers to five shots in the first period (Braden Schneider hit the post on a breakaway), more than 14 minutes without a shot in the second period and just two shots in the first 10 minutes of the third period. They forced the Rangers into 12 giveaways.

Sergei Bobrovsky took care of any shot that got through, making 23 saves as the Rangers were shut out for the first time since Dec. 9.

"I think you have to be a veteran goalie to do what he did tonight, sit for a while, make huge saves," Panthers coach Paul Maurice told reporters.

Matthew Tkachuk, who had several big hits, gave the Panthers the only goal that they needed, ripping a shot past Rangers defenseman Adam Fox and Shesterkin at 16:26 of the first period.

Tkachuk scored three game-winning goals in last season's conference final.

One of the Rangers' few highlights was winning a review to overturn an Oliver Ekman-Larsson goal because of goaltender interference by Ryan Lomberg to keep the score 1-0.

The Rangers pressed after that and got a power play when the Panthers had too many men on the ice. But Florida was able to kill that off and build on its lead with the own goal.

Sam Bennett added an empty-netter.

"I think we can play better," Laviolette said. "I don't think that was the best version of ourselves, so we'll look to see what they did and what we can do in all areas of the game."

The Panthers swept the Carolina Hurricanes in last year's Eastern Conference final before they lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Panthers win Game 1 of conference finals; Rangers score own goal